murphyormel

wacky reflections from a nutcracker wannabe

Category: Fight Cancer

I am Titanium

Over and over recently, I’ve
been told to listen for strength, power, language, music, signage, and energy to give me what I need….when needed.

Well, as Karma would have it, the Sia song, “I am Titanium” keeps swirling around me….in my car, at work, movies, at home (while ignoring housework), and now today in a auditorium full of teenagers and dance moms …..

Does a higher power work through varying means to capture our heart and attention?

As I sit alone at my daughter’s dance competition (yes and laughingly, in dance mom wearables – and no, not a Velour jumpsuit), ‘I won’t give up….even if the sky’s get rough’ fills the auditorium as I type this. (Have you read previous posts? Lol. Was this song choice for me?)

The messages do speak to us.

I AM titanium. Do all the young girls in this auditorium hear the same message, meaning we are in charge! We make personal choices every day. We love. We lose. We laugh. We are.

My girl makes me immensely proud and swells my heart with genuine, from the depths of my soul, joy (ironically, that is different than cheerleader joy). All the fatigue and temperature issues that come with this damn sickness escape my attention when she shines that smile. If only I could work half days and enjoy her over-lip glossed smile every full work day, this next month would go quickly and painlessly.

Cheers to all moms, sisters, daughters, friends, nieces, grandmas and cousins who don’t yet see they too are titanium.

Because you rock.

Mel

P.s. I have redeemed my ‘dance mom’ concerns with a black T-shirt that says, ‘if dance was any easier they would call it football’. (My journalism self is choosing to ignore the lack of punctuation.)

wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium_ore

Perspective shines on me. And the countdown to glow starts….

Perspective.  Our lives take on varying degrees at different times.  Tonight, as hundreds of mourners stood together in silence, powerful fear and tremendous sadness, the stunning reality of a life taken so young, we each personally awake to what we do have.

Each other.  Today.  The Present.

For me, this silly cancer could go on for two years, six+ years, who knows, but I will work in between, love my daughter, get my life back on track, fall in love again, and pray the end comes at some point.

It will likely not take me from my family except for the annual bear-cave routine, and if it did, I would know life sent me magical moments and gifts beyond anything a blog could express.  I am blessed with beautiful souls who have stood by my side, the courage to wake up and reevaluate an authentic me, unconditional love and friendship when I wasn’t so lovable, what makes me tick on the inside not just the “on”side, what toxic means, and what real perspective is…..

Today, the second parent my age in six months will say goodbye to a child, and there is nothing anyone can say that helps – except to cry with them and let them know we are here – nor can we ever truly know that heartache unless it is us.

Pain is like that.  It can’t be compared.  It shouldn’t be.  

My speed bumps of a silly marriage and divorce, miscarriages that surprised then passed, and now a few trips over the river and through the woods for next week’s again “she’s not a pharma rep but  a patient” radio iodine treatment, seem like nothing when perspective takes a greater meaning like my friend’s family endures today.

God has gifted me a loving, clever, smart, charming, type A, sometimes smarty-pants (as she should be at this age), beautiful, amazing daughter, and for that I am grateful for recognizing what I have.

That it takes loss, meditation, prayer and silence to remind us is the sad part.

Cheers to a beautiful angel who teaches me a lesson I needed desperately to hear when anyone and everyone has said the same thing for the last 12 months, and I couldn’t hear those closest to me.  Or I chose not to listen, because I wasn’t ready.

Sometimes, lessons come from where and when we least expect.

The countdown to the now annual “glow” begins.  A week from today, I will be given the “dose”, measured with the Geiger counter, body scanned again and given instruction on the next steps toward healing, but you know, it will be a-ok regardless of what they find, as the mack truck in me will shine again.

Now, that is perspective I didn’t own until this week.

White lights,

Mel

The smack down of STL humidity is a lot like life. It just happens.

….and we embrace, endure, unleash our creative spirit, and take the journey back to ourselves.

I tend to run at 100mph most of the time.  It’s perhaps an escape mechanism, long legs and heels, or perhaps it’s just type A madness from which I cannot escape.  But regardless, I too must crash from time to time to refresh, renew spirit and ask for spiritual alignment.

My supervisor teases me that as an extrovert, I am in my element when “on”, and as such, the energy pushes me through even the toughest of anxious situations.  But these moments do test my ability to be “on” in the same way I have always known, when my personal life “storm” isn’t as obvious publicly.  So, sometimes the crash is even harder on my spirit.

Frankly, at work, with my sweet girl or with a close friend or family, I can either escape totally from the “storm” or be candid about the real me.  And here too, I get that same release in some strange way.  But when the escape moment is over, there is not a metaphor more suitable than like walking outside into the STL humidity that smacks you in the face to bring you back to the reality of our lives.  The wall of heat that hits you hard as you walk out of a cool, safe place.

We all carry “stuff” with us on our journey.  Just this week, I learned of a peer who has been facing an emotional wound he keeps close to the vest.  And while his family enjoyed incredibly loving and optimistic news to remedy this wound just this week, it reminded me again of how we break a leg and stay home but an emotional wound hits, and we still get up, drink coffee, make the bell for the early morning meeting and go home to that reality.  It’s all around us, and yet we don’t know who embraces what and what path they take to heal themselves.

It affirms I am where I am meant to be, meaning the people who cross my path at a given moment and reach out to ask if I am ok even when they don’t know the big picture.  I am incredibly honored by the folks that read this blog and tell me when I had no idea it reached as many, and in as many ways as it has.  My original intention was a cathartic way to reach anyone when I was overwhelmed by my own loneliness, and instead, I learned so many of us face these same anxieties, fears, loss on a day by day, and sometimes moment to moment basis.  You are not alone, my friend.

Yesterday was a vulnerable day.  Last weekend was full, lovely and healing.  Folks see me and forget I have cancer, OR know the other losses, and assume the cancer is gone because the early treatments are done.  And yet, I can’t forget either.  They are my personal humidity smack down, and no one can live in my shoes but me.  The road ahead is long and windy…..and frankly, still pretty damn scary.

But my daughter and I are just two entities in God’s plan.  And we are still keeping it together- day in and day out.  My daughter is my role model for resilience and acceptance.  And she doesn’t even know the strength and love she gives me each and every day to get through this madness and mess.

I remember the first time I could see myself in the mirror after Lasic surgery years ago and thinking “where did those wrinkles come from- they weren’t there before”….lol.  I guess life is a lot like that.  We take off the glasses and reality presents itself in full view.

And then we move forward with vulnerability in some moments, with grace in others.

Om Shanti,

Mel

The Sacred Lotus rises towards the light.

Sometimes called the Sacred Lotus, this flower often symbolizes beauty, perfection, purity and grace.  The lotus flower grows in muddy water, yet the dirt and mud fall off its leaves and petals, keeping it clean and pure. A lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises from water to stand above it unsoiled, raised in the world but having overcome the world, or living unsoiled by the world. In turn, the lotus is often viewed as a symbol of aspirations to rise towards the light. *

51,183 participants walked yesterday for the 14th Annual Susan Komen Walk for the Cure.  700+ teams of survivor family and friends and an epic energy for one cancer filled downtown STL.  A veteran motorcyclist was individually saluting each survivor as she passed.

As we passed him, I wondered how many other folks like myself are facing some type of treatment for their own internal pain and offering daily prayer for good health and energy along with these 3000+ breast cancer survivors.  I noticed parents, sisters, brothers, grandkids, spouses and those on the brink of being married, celebrate their loved one in pink clearly at their side through the fight and continued success.  The morning hit me in a way I didn’t expect- 1.  we all need a survivor team of dedicated love and support, and 2. cancer has a ripple effect.

Just as the melancholy began once again to set in, I looked to my right and saw I wasn’t alone.  And I was ok.

In the evening, I was lucky enough to visit the profound and peaceful Chinese Lantern Festival.  “Elaborate outdoor sets crafted of silk and steel celebrate Chinese culture through bold color, dazzling light and striking design.”**

The Lotus Flower exhibition felt timely after the morning of both powerful group energy and a silent internal reality.  But once again, I wasn’t alone.

The Confucian scholar, Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) wrote: “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”

Cheers to the pink that surrounds us all!  The ‘Warriors in Pink’ of Ford say, “Courage has many faces.  And every one is beautiful.”.

So too are you.

Om Shanti,

Mel

* http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/things-to-do/events/special-exhibitions/lantern-festival/chinese-lantern-fun-facts.aspx ** http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/325267/105/14th-annual-Race-for-the-Cure-raises-more-than-24-million-

“The well lived life of a beautiful young man.”

Privileged to work for the kind, loving colleagues, I do, I was again reminded today what is important in our lives.  Priority.  Love.  Family.  Faith.

As I embraced both heartache and celebration of a true hero’s life today -a near 16-year-old boy who has endured, battled, embraced, taught and loved through 8+ years of Leukemia, I was reminded that while my own challenges through mud continue, others too have their own muddy mountains that slip and slide.  We also have hands that reach for us in the dark, heal our heart over time and with amazing courage, love us through darkness and light.

We were not surprised that this young man indeed “practiced what he preached” as his dad shared that M’s words to his middle school graduates just a year ago included the following:….(messages from which we all should live and take on our individual journeys…)

1.  “Help others with disabilities.”  They are not defined by the disability.

2.  “Contribute to your community.” M was always in the corner of the disadvantaged.

3. “Always be kind to one another”.  Kindness matters.

We were graciously offered that M. knew “the power of his purpose was to inspire others to do good”.  And how can you not want that when seeing those bright eyes and big grin flash a spirit so real, piercing and full of faith and adventure, even through fatigue, challenge, change and the unknown?

Cancer is a curse and a blessing, and this young, amazing and ingenious man knew and lived this through his Faith and sharing that which he felt with others.  “It is a curse because of the suffering. It is a blessing because of what flourishes from its presence.”

And finally, what struck me most personally, was a line that flashed on a beautifully prepared memorial video on M.’s life. “Family means never being left behind or forgotten.”  

My friends, love those in your life today.  Ensure they understand you will not leave them alone when frightened and unsure of the journey ahead.  Pray. Hope. Believe. Love. And fierce, fierce loyalty always, as this brave family has done for their sweet M.

We are honored to have known you, M, or know those who love you.  We are stronger for the gifts you have given and the messaged coins you have showered upon our hearts.  We are gifted your presence and belief in a higher power that “asked” you to suffer for a reason I believe you know today in a more peaceful setting.

Today touched me, and I am thankful from a place that even I don’t understand.

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” – Albus Dumbledore.

Om shanti, my young man.  Some day we will meet, and you will tell me how and why the mountains make us whole again.

Melissa

It’s radioactive Friday. Iodine tastes better than a pre-colonoscopy beverage.

FB, Twitter and the email world have shown me love and healing I never dreamed.  I wish I could hug Steve Jobs and that Zuckerberg dude directly.  Wow- thank you to the now hundreds of notes and stories, prayers and eHugs that have come my way.  And check out the jpgs at the end of this post..priceless….

I am officially radioactive but no superpowers yet.  Go to your window and look for the glow.  It might be an early Mardi Gras bead being thrown high in the air of STL parties, but it could just be me. (They said superpowers take a few weeks to kick in. At that point, look for a pink sparkle cape and a big smile.)

Today was the (first) treatment.  It’s called radioiodine therapy*, and it is specifically used to treat Thyroid Cancer.  The anxiety is much worse than the actual beverage.  It’s small and doesn’t taste much more than a little aluminum foil mixed with warm tap water that has been sitting on the kitchen sink too long.  So, really, in the big picture, not a big deal and oh sooooo much better than that which you drink before a colonoscopy.

I love however that the nurse in the room puts on all these clothing protectors and big rubber gloves, but they put a small white paper cloth over my chest (with tape in the back no less) and I sit in my skinny jeans and pink sweater waiting to start.  Not even glasses. Seriously?  Oh well, I guess drinking it is much worse than losing a pair of my favorite Dansko shoes.

Course, we are talking about radiation in a contained lead package that has to be ordered from another facility and isn’t housed in the hospital for safety reasons. Literally. They have to order it once the patient has the consultation to ensure they will go through with it because it is so expensive and well, you know…radioactive.

They also actually measure my radioactivity before I leave AND after I set off an actual Geiger counter. For real! She takes out a human size ruler, stands far away, students are watching, a loud buzzer is going off, and they are watching a Geiger counter score the success of the treatment in my body. Freak’n science, incredible! (Mr. Gattung at OTHS would be so proud of me. And I only remembered his “vette” (meaning chevet). I should really get that A now.) (Thank goodness my brother, HJ, is a PhD radiochemist to explain what I ingested to my parents in a way that doesn’t scare more than necessary.)

Regardless, we go back Tuesday for a total body scan to determine if the tumors have spread beyond the right (and to my surprise, also left) thyroid lobe.  All were in fact papillary so if “you are going to have thyroid cancer, this is the best you can have”.  Comforting.

I will know partial results after that scan and on that day.  There will be blood work in six weeks and six months, plus any additional treatments pending next Tuesday’s total body scan, meaning more scans every one to five years for the rest of my life depending on what we find.

This on top of my every three-year colonoscopy.  Bazinga!

MU alum is kicking cancer's ass!

! 

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iodine-131#Medical_and_pharmaceutical_uses

** MU Live Strong logo…http://instagr.am/p/mWfOC/

The only time being called a large Mack truck is a compliment…

In the last few days, I have been reminded of who I am to the outside.  That in itself is an immense gift.  Being called a “Warrior” and “Mack truck” are my personal favorites.  No other time except when facing cancer is being called a large Mack truck appropriate.  Never.  But today, I know my friend sees me as tenacious, driven, strong and capable of moving anything that gets in my way.  He is right.

ok, so I actually haven’t kicked thyroid cancer’s ass yet, but I will.  Just around the corner. Doc assures me that “if you are going to have cancer, this is the best kind to have.”  LOL!  Those are words I never expected to hear, much less typing them in a blog I didn’t plan to write until 20 minutes ago.  I also must acknowledge that once I kick this, cancer can always come back.  No worries. I’ve had my share of ups and downs and always land on my feet.

Know that song by Blue October, “Jump Rope”?  If not, get it.

That being said, if you read, “Get a goiter, grow a goiter”- this would be part 2.  You see, that goiter that Ms. Crazy Aunt Delilah designed for the work costume contest and actually became one two years ago, was checked and found benign.  But over time and with repeated ultrasounds that never showed cancer, it was time for surgery to remove.  Mostly it was cosmetic and sometimes I would feel pressure on my vocal cord (perhaps a gift to my friends, as I do possess the gift to gab).  Me?  I was just happy to get rid of that word in my vocabulary. Seriously, who named that thing a Goiter anyway…… “gooooooiter”?  It just says, “make fun of me”.  (And Seinfeld did nothing to help those of us with the curse of the “goooooiter”.)

Regardless, I conceded and took on the surgery when it fit my schedule.  When the doc came back in after discharge to tell me they found malignancies, even he didn’t expect to give me this news.  It wasn’t seen on the previous ultrasounds, and no one seems to know for how long I had been growing the cells. Again, no worries, I get some radioiodine and a total body scan and soon enough I’m back to being a bad ass marketing professional.

But here’s what I’ve learned along this ridiculously insane journey:

– Many folks have thyroid issues, but unless they “get the goiter”, they may not be aware of the cancerous cells.  Ask your doc how you can be sure you are safe.

– Laughter heals.  So too does investing in a good therapist.

–  My 11-year-old  daughter has a capacity for amazing resilience and understanding.  We haven’t yet used the “c” word (not that word, you goof), but I am transparent about needing much rest and meds that will make me radioactive and need to keep me alone for a few days while she stays with her dad.

– “Ask for the order”.  Social networking has a completely new meaning for me this week- beyond a buttload of professional experience.  (oh dear, I may have to rate this blog differently).  An insane amount of emails, notes, personal stories, public thoughts, encouragement and kindness continue to come my way from people I haven’t seen in years.  And it took me weeks to admit to folks even outside my closest six girlfriends what was happening in my life.  Suddenly, I am flooded with white lights, love and healing from around the globe.  Just with a touch of a button and a polite request to have my back.

– Never allow anyone-  a sibling, parent, spouse (!!!!), friend, family member, colleague to hear the diagnosis alone.  Partially, b/c they are likely loopy on  Vicadin or Morphine, as I was and only heard one word, and partially b/c we need to be holding a hand or taking notes or something….and for me, I was still in the hospital gown, arse hanging out, connected to tubes and hair looking rocking hot.  I was in shock and there was no one to hold my hand.

– Some folks you think will come to your side will not. And that is ok.  Not everyone is comfortable and knows what and how to be there for you.  Accept that this is not easy for anyone and move forward with folks who will not pull from the positive energies you need in reserve.

– Toxic people are bad news. Move on.

– I have always been good with “asking for the order”. (Daughter of a psychotherapist and attorney.)  But, I’m not great at asking for help.  Too damn type A and like to believe I can do it all.  This time, I couldn’t. And you know what, asking wasn’t hard and the return has been the best investment of all time. 🙂

– Next time you enter a hospital, consider that every patient – you, your friend, your parent, etc…this is their story.  It is not just a visit from you.  It has a beginning – when they first call the doctor knowing something is “amiss”- to the end diagnosis or worse.  Everything else in between is the plot.  You are part of that plot and can make it even the smallest bit easier- even offering an ice chip or calling the nurse or a trip to the bathroom with someone other than a stranger means something.  Be there and be present. And know it’s their story, not yours.  Even if dinner needs to be made, or the kids have homework, or the laundry isn’t done.  They are scared and need you to be with them.

–  Touch.  People need human contact.  We need to be loved.  Ask to hold a hand or give a hug, or frankly, just let me cry without solving my problems or telling the story of iodine radiation that your uncle bob had.  I am not Bob.

–  I don’t need you to tell me you are sorry.  Of course you are, you are my friend.  Instead, just be there and remind me of all the things you know me to be.  Because in that vulnerable moment, I don’t recall who I was before the diagnosis.

–  Nurses run a hospital.  I can be the lead for the marketing department, but I am nothing but support to the men/women who have  (as my smart, loving, nurse based CEO says) “the privilege to touch the patient”.  She is right.  It is a privilege, and nurses deserve incredible respect.

And finally, Crazy Aunt Delilah may not have been just karma, she may have just saved my life.

Just imagine this next Halloween when she reappears with a new look, a fancy scarf to cover what appears a neckline intruder incident and a rockin’ story about being a cancer survivor.  Probably wearing the survivor card on a tiara……(note to self).

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